Nearly 150 participants gathered at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on a rainy morning on Saturday, Oct. 6 for the annual Central PA Heart Walk. The event reached its $84,000 fundraising goal for the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization focused on heart and brain health for all, while promoting physical and mental health through healthy habits.
The event saw fewer participants than in previous years, but those that did participate were excited to have the opportunity to gather in-person again after the Heart Walk was held virtually in 2020. The dedicated group of participants included heart disease survivors and their families, proudly wearing their commemorative Heart Walk baseball caps and Heart Hero capes, as well as local company teams. The teams from Mount Nittany Health, Geisinger, UPMC Altoona and Weis Markets were the top fundraising companies, each raising more than $2,000.
“The Heart Walk promotes healthy lifestyle choices that help our employees feel their best so they can continue to solve some of the world’s toughest problems,” said Kirk Thomas, chief administrative officer of Geisinger Western Region and chair of this year’s Heart Walk. “It’s also helping to raise funds to support the lifesaving research and work of the American Heart Association. The funds raised by our company and community teams are our most powerful tools in the fight against heart disease and stroke.”
The overall top fundraising team, however, was Team StoneStrong, led by the star of this year’s Heart Walk, 3-year-old congenital heart defect survivor Stone Devore from State College. Stone was born in May 2018 with a congenital heart defect called atrioventricular septal (AV canal) defect and a genetic disorder called Noonan Syndrome. This heart condition occurs when there is a hole between the heart’s chambers and problems with the valves that regulate blood flow in the heart. Stone underwent open heart surgery when he was 1-year-old. His progress is monitored during frequent doctor visits and he may need additional surgeries in the future. However, he is currently a healthy, active 3-year-old.
“Stone’s journey has been difficult and emotional at times,” said Stone’s mother, Mallory Devore. “When times got tough, he got tougher. Stone is such a happy, active and kind little boy. We could not be more proud!”
Team StoneStrong raised a total of nearly $3,400, also making Stone’s parents, Mallory and Joshua DeVore the event’s top fundraising individual walkers. After sharing their story, the DeVore family led runners to the start line and cut the ribbon to kick-off the run. Walkers then made their way to the start line as Kirk Thomas cut the ribbon to kick-off the walk. Both runners and walkers completed a 5K route through State College, ending next to Beaver Stadium. Jeremy Lumadue, team coach for the Weis Markets team, was the first runner across the finish line.
Supporters in Cambria County will have the opportunity to participate in the Central PA Heart Walk on Saturday, Oct. 23 at Roxbury Park. Any supporters who were unable to attend the Heart Walk in person were encouraged to walk on their own path. The American Heart Association encourages anyone who wishes to support the Heart Walk, but was unable to attend the event in person, to walk where they are and share their walk on social media using #CentralPAHeartWalk.
The funds raised at events like the Heart Walk support the American Heart Association’s mission, including advocating for public policy that improves community health, advancing the science of CPR, improving outcomes for heart and stroke patients, and investing in cardiovascular research that has led to life-saving advancements in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.
The Central PA Heart Walk was sponsored by Geisinger, with additional support from sponsors including Weis Markets, Encompass Health, Conemaugh Health System, PSECU, UPMC Heart & Vascular and Zoll LifeVest.
Donations will be accepted through Nov. 16, 2021. Visit heart.org/centralpa to learn more and make a donation.